When two tugboats collided off the coast of Nanaimo in late May 2016, SEAMOR Marine Ltd. was quick on the scene to offer help.

The accident occurred the evening of May 24, 2016 in the south of Nanaimo between Duke Point and Gabriola Island. Two tug boats were running alongside one another, when one ship, the C.T. Titan, swerved and crashed into the smaller Albern tug. Two crew members were safely pulled from the water, but the Albern rolled and sank to the bottom of the Northumberland Channel.

The sunken tug suffered damage to its fuel tanks, slowly releasing fuel into the channel at the rate of five-foot diameter patches of oil every ten minutes. At 105 metres of depth, with substantial tidal impacts and moderate current in the channel, there were concerns that the oil spill could worsen.



SEAMOR Chinook ROV on board to the inspection of the sunken tugboat


SEAMOR Marine Ltd., a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) design and manufacturing company in Nanaimo, offered assistance to the Port Authority immediately upon hearing of the accident. With our state-of-the-art ROVs we could help identify the exact location and position of the boat underwater.

“If something happens in our waters, we want to be there to assist.” said Robin Li, President of SEAMOR Marine.

As soon as weather conditions permitted a site visit, Robin Li, and Mechanical Engineer, Adam Penner, accompanied a captain, deckhand, and an ROV pilot (Chris Dumas) from the Port Authority to inspect the shipwreck.


Adam Penner, SEAMOR Mechanical Engineer, ready to deploy the Chinook ROV


Two ROV dives were scheduled to pinpoint the location of the sunken ship on June 14, 2016. While there was some GPS information from the ship crew, it was not known where exactly the tugboat laid underwater. The “Chinook” ROV (SEAMOR has named its vehicles after local species of salmon) can be equipped with sonar – an Imagenex 852 sonar (also built in British Columbia) gave the team the ability to quickly determine the location of the tugboat, much faster than one would be able to find it visually.


Sonar imagery of the sunken tugboat


Next, the SEAMOR Chinook was used to do a full inspection of the sunken tug, including confirming the identity of the ship. The clear video from the ROV’s camera were saved to an on-board digital video recorder. This video has been shared with the Port Authority and will also be reviewed by a salvage contractor to establish a recovery plan.


Visual confirmation of the sunken tugboat at 100 metres underwater as seen from the SEAMOR ROV controller.


The Chinook ROV used is a fully redesigned vehicle that was launched by SEAMOR in Spring 2015. Compared to other, older vehicles in this inspection-class, the Chinook is very maneuverable, has more power, and moves smoothly both in still water and heavy currents. It is rugged, built to handle tough work, and is easy to use by the most novice ROV pilots. The team noted how well the upgraded electronics and advancements in design helped this ROV complete its mission.

SEAMOR ROVs have been used for shipwreck inspections and recovery across the world. The ROVs’ applications are widespread too, as they have been used for a variety of fields from aquaculture, to dam inspection; underwater archaeology, to pipeline inspection. The Nanaimo company was recently honoured by the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce winning the 2016 “Innovation in Technology” Business Achievement Awards.